Speed matters: How to choose the right NBN plan for your family
Choosing the speed of an internet plan is a new concept for many Australians. For years we didn't have any say in how fast our connection was, but with the rollout of the NBN and its many speed tiers comes this choice, and it's an important choice to make.
Unlimited data, or more data than you'd ever need, is nearly a standard inclusion in most current NBN deals.
Today, speed is arguably the most important factor when considering which NBN service to get and how happy you'll be with its performance.
What is a good internet speed?
While you don't get to choose which technology is used to connect your home to the NBN, (the specifics of the rollout have been decided on by NBN Co based on which technology works best at each address), you do have a choice over how fast your connection is.
Until recently NBN plans came in four different speed tiers: 12 megabits per second (Mbps), 25Mbps, 50Mbps and 100Mbps. These are also known as NBN 12, NBN 25, NBN 50 and NBN 100 plans, with more Mbps meaning a faster connection.
In the last few months two even faster speed tiers have been introduced: NBN 250 and NBN 1000. So, now there are six speed tiers to choose from, although whether or not you can get access to them all depends on the technology type of your connection. We'll cover that shortly.
The thing to bear in mind when choosing a plan is that your home internet is a shared resource. Each task you do online occupies a certain amount of capacity and with each new user and task on your connection, the remaining capacity drops. So as a rule of thumb, your internet will need to be faster if you have a lot of people and devices accessing that connection.
Choosing an internet speed
There are three main considerations when choosing an internet speed to suit your household:
- How many people use the internet in your home?
- The more people the faster the speed you should consider getting
- How many devices connect to the internet?
- From phones and laptops to TVs and security systems. You'll need more speed for more connected devices
- How do people in your home spend their time online?
- Activities like streaming HD video can have a big impact on your speed. How do the people in your household most frequently spend their time online?
A good starting point is to see what kind of speed your current connection gets, and use your experience with those speeds as a benchmark for what you might need to change to. To get an idea of the speed your current service delivers, run a quick speed test. That should help guide you towards which NBN speed tier would be best for you.
Plans with speeds of 50Mbps tend to be the best value for most households given their fast speeds and affordable pricing of plans. Speeds of 250Mbps or higher are well suited to households with more than six people or small businesses, but they're not available to everyone. Only Fibre to the Premises (FTTP) customers and 70% of HFC customers can actually sign up to these plans currently.
Be aware that your plan's maximum speed may not always be the speed your connection can achieve. There are a number of factors that can affect NBN speeds including the technology type your NBN connection is delivered over, congestion in the evening, and your provider.
Below are the evening speeds you can look forward to based on your NBN tier, but expect to only achieve up to 80% of these speeds during the peak hours of 7-11pm.
|Speed Tier||Maximum Speed||Evening Speed|
|Basic I (NBN 12)||12Mbps||7Mbps|
|Basic II (NBN 25)||25Mbps||15Mbps|
|Standard (NBN 50)||50Mbps||30Mbps|
|Fast (NBN 100)||100Mbps||60Mbps|
|Superfast (NBN 250)||250Mbps||150Mbps|
|Ultrafast (NBN 1000)||1000Mbps||250Mbps|
If you're not sure what kind of NBN plan to pick, we typically advise trying a no-contract NBN 50 plan first. These plans are your best bang for buck option as they provide a significant speed upgrade over most ADSL connections and are pretty affordable. Testing out a no-contract option first will stop you from getting locked into a service you're not happy with.
They're also a good option for families - households with between two and four people. An NBN 50 plan will ensure everyone in your household is able to do what they want online, whether it's streaming movies and music, online gaming or video calling family and friends.
These plans are great for large households and anyone who regularly downloads or uploads large files. If your home is packed to the rafters with family members then videos, movies and games will stream smoothly so everyone from the kids to grandma can get online at the same time and on different devices.
However, you'll tend to pay about $20 more per month for an NBN 100 connection over an NBN 50 plan. The maximum speeds are twice as fast, but ask yourself if you'll make use of them.
These plans are best suited for a one- or two-person household. Not many individual online activities require a faster speed than NBN 25, but you may notice slower speeds if multiple people are using your connection at once. These plans tend to come in between $10 - $20 cheaper than NBN 50 plans, which can mean a significant saving if the speeds are workable for your home.
The new NBN 250 plans could be a great choice for anyone who really wants to push their internet connection to its limits, or even for a small business. NBN Co intends to upgrade the HFC portion of the network to ensure all customers can sign-up for an NBN 250 plan by June 2021, but there's no word on whether other NBN connection types will be able to get these super fast NBN plans. NBN 250 plans start at around $110/mth.
This is the fastest NBN speed tier, but there's only limited availability for it right now. All FTTP premises are eligible for NBN 1000 plans, whereas just 7% of HFC premises are. This means that only 18% of NBN ready premises can currently get an NBN 1000 plan.
Starting at around $135/mth these ultrafast plans won't improve your streaming performance compared to other fast alternatives but they will dramatically speed up practically any download. If you are lucky enough to have the right kind of connection and can afford the luxury of an NBN 1000 plan then you'll have the ultimate NBN bragging rights.
NBN 12 services give you roughly the equivalent performance you'd get on an older ADSL2+ connection. While still enough to stream high definition video from the likes of YouTube, an NBN 12 plan may only be suitable if your household doesn't have heavy internet users, or you rarely use streaming video services.
There's also no longer much of a discount to be had by picking an NBN 12 plan over an NBN 50 one. Given an NBN 50 plan is four times faster, there's little reason not to get the faster plan when they're both practically the same price.
What to do next
Once you've checked your current internet speed and feel confident about the speed of service you want to get, the next step is to compare the deals different providers are offering so you pick the best one for you.
Australia's telco market is very competitive and the sheer number of internet providers to choose from can sometimes make this choice a little bewildering. Consider using a comparison service to help filter through the many options, or at least visit a few different provider websites to get a sense for what's available. With so many providers trying to win your business you'll often find great promotions that you can take advantage of, which will make switching all the sweeter.